Listen: Noel McDermott chats to Laura Bennett
Having our normal lives disrupted affects us all – but everyone is experiencing isolation in different ways, with different pressure points between men and women, young and old.
UK-based Psychotherapist Noel McDermott says that while the COVID-19 pandemic is universal, men – and dads in particular – are feeling the strain in unique ways.
Speaking to Hope 103.2 Noel said, “For guys who are fathers and have families there are a number of issues. One is employment status. It does tend to still be the case that guys are bringing in more of the income in a family – even in a family where both partners are working.
“And the other thing is that men haven’t historically been in the habit of picking up the phone and talking to their mates about what’s going on; they’ve tended to meet up with their mates and go out and do things together – and that’s not available at the moment.
“That main area of support and letting off steam isn’t an option.
“The other thing is in the area of family dynamics. When you have a non-resident parent [in the case of split families], the non-resident parent is often the guy. And in terms of contact with kids, and the relationship with the other parent – that often is under a lot of strain at the moment.”
It’s Okay To Be Struggling; Give Each Other Grace
While these stressors aren’t unusual, at the moment they can all be a source of much more intense pressure than normal, and our usual coping mechanisms are limited.
“For the majority of people who are with their family,” Noel said, “the intensity of contact has been a significant thing that we (a), never expected, or (b), never planned for, in terms of the relationship skills that we have… So if you’re struggling under those conditions that’s OK.
“The intensity of contact is what most people are feeling.”
Noel encourages people to show each other a lot of grace.
“I think the big tool… a lot of people need right now is to learn a lot of forgiveness,” he said. “Let each other off the hook.
“When normally you might want to sit down and have a serious discussion about something, ditch the serious discussion and get straight into problem solving, and conflict resolution and management.”
As we begin to come out of lockdown, Noel says the things we should be discussing are how we’ll approach our return to work, and what our views are on how we’ll minimise risk to our family and friends.
“If you can get through today okay, you’ve done a really good job. The more expectations of normality we have, the more we’re going to get stressed out and resentful and angry.”
“You have to make the decision that’s right for you,” said Noel. “And you have to accept that decision as a family, and not second-guess it or give yourself a hard time about it. Only you know your particular circumstances and you have to work with them.
“We’re going to go through a period of intense transition now, and intense uncertainty about the rules and what action we can take, and it can be psychologically very difficult to navigate.”
To reduce the overwhelm that can come from dramatic cumulative change, Noel suggests we change our timescales and expectations.
“If you can get through today okay, you’ve done a really good job,” he said. “The more expectations of normality we have, the more we’re going to get stressed out and resentful and angry.”
4 Things to Ask Yourself to Get Through Each Day
- What is truly important to you in this moment?
- What am I grateful for today?
- What expectations of my typical life have I let go of today?
- Have I followed a simple schedule, engaged in self-care, eaten well, rested, and exercised?
To find out more about the online services Noel offers head to his website.